February 15, 2016 / 4:42 PM / 4 years ago

UN experts condemn trial of foreign nationals in the UAE, call for release

GENEVA, Feb 15 (Reuters) - U.N. human rights experts urged the United Arab Emirates on Monday to release several foreign nationals whom they said had been detained arbitrarily, tortured and forced to sign confessions.

The experts said in a statement that a Libyan-Canadian, two Libyan-Americans, and two Libyan citizens were arrested by state security officials in Aug. 2014.

Three men had been charged with funding, supporting and cooperating with alleged terrorist organizations in Jan. 2016 and their trial was set to open on Monday.

The two Libyans have been charged separately and their trial began in late 2015, with a sentencing expected on Feb. 29, the statement said.

“The arbitrary nature of their detention was confirmed by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary detention in a recent decision and we called on the Emirati authorities to release them without delay,” human rights expert Seong-Phil Hong, who heads the panel, said in the statement.

UAE authorities could not be contacted for comment.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez, said the panel had received credible information that the detainees had been tortured and forced to sign confessions.

“The suspects have been also allegedly held incommunicado in secret detention locations and in solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time,” he said.

The UAE, a confederation of seven Muslim emirates ruled by hereditary dynasties, is worried about political Islam, which appeals to religious conservatives while challenging its lack of democratic rule.

It has declared the Muslim Brotherhood, which denies any involvement in militant violence, to be a terrorist organisation and has taken part in U.S.-led air strikes on the Islamic State insurgent group in Syria.

The UAE is also concerned about efforts by Sunni Muslim jihadists to stoke sectarian tensions in the Gulf. There have been attacks on Shi’ite Muslim mosques in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Militant violence is rare in the UAE, but Islamic State has urged Muslims in Gulf countries to target Western expatriates in retaliation for attacks against it. (Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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